Authentic learning environments are a hot topic these days. Getting out of classroom plays an important role in diversifying teaching and learning and making it more relevant to students. But that alone doesn’t ensure deeper learning for everybody. The experience needs to be meaningful. I dare to argue that the probability of meaningfulness increases in an authentic environment. Teacher’s expertise also plays a big part in this. A poorly designed and executed fieldtrip or a session can void the power of the authentic environment. When extending our learning environments outside of classroom walls, it is important that we prepare the whole package. But even then we might not reach all the students and that is ok.
After 16 years as a trained professional, I still find myself compelled about my own learning. I see my children engaged with the natural world and can’t help but wonder how increased experiential learning opportunities outside of the classroom walls in authentic learning environments would benefit the growth of my children, would benefit my own growth, and that of my students. There is a lot we can do in a classroom and thus we shouldn’t feel bad about building teaching and learning around its facilities. However we should make a point of challenging ourselves in leaving the classroom whenever an authentic learning environment would serve the purpose of enhancing deeper learning.
By Petteri Elo, Principal Consultant